Most criminal cases don’t start with an elaborate investigation like a Law & Order drama, but rather police responding to an incident such as routine traffic stop. I often represent people who have no criminal history who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time or simply don’t exercise proper judgment. Unfortunately, none of these excuses are a legal defense! If they would have just followed these rules, they wouldn’t have needed my services or that of any criminal defense lawyer. Here are the 5 rules:
- Don’t be disrespectful to police and law enforcement!
You don’t a have constitutional right to be a jerk to police! In fact, I recommend being respectful and cooperative. Respectful and cooperative doesn’t mean surrendering you’re constitutional right against illegal search and seizure. Respectful and polite doesn’t mean freely answering questions and volunteering information. It means, however, never arguing with the officer and not getting in his way if he chooses to search your car or you without your permission. Arguing with the police officer or the state trooper is pointless and will only make your case worse.
2. Don’t drive just because you “don’t feel drunk!”
“Feeling Drunk” isn’t a good indication of your level of intoxication and BAC (Blood Alcohol Content or Concentration). The sense of intoxication isn’t based on your BAC but rather your tolerance! Tolerance and BAC are mutually exclusive.
Don’t base your decision to drive after a night out on how you feel. My personal rule is that if I’ve consumed more than one drink, I don’t drive my car and if I’ve consumed any alcohol, I won’t drive with my kids in the car! Impairment really does begin with the first drink and police are trained to look for certain cues during field sobriety testing. There are defense strategies to fight drunk driving cases but the best defense strategy is not to drive.
3. Don’t stay with someone who you know possess contraband (gun, drugs, etc.) in their house or car!
Remember that police don’t need to find the drugs, guns or any type of contraband on you to charge you with a crime. A drug and gun charge can range from a felony to a misdemeanor offense in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey. Like Pennsylvania, the actual possession of these items isn’t required in New Jersey. The prosecution only has to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the item was in your control. Even if the prosecution can’t establish your guilt, a conspiracy charge carries with it the same punishment under the law.
If you must stay in someone’s home or drive in their car and they’re involved in illegal activity, it’s a good decision to not comingle your personal belongings with their items.
4. Don’t text, blog, email, post foul comments or worse, threaten others!
I can’t stress this rule enough—communicating online or through texting is the worst mistake you can make! You’re making a record of the communication, which the prosecution can introduce into evidence at a trial. There is no internet privilege! I have a former client currently serving 10 years in state prison because of a text message!
It’s also important to keep in mind that the prosecution may attempt to use these communications at a bail hearing to show that you’re a danger to the community.
5. Don’t carry your Pennsylvania Firearm across state lines, especially New Jersey
Your license to carry in Pennsylvania isn’t valid in New Jersey and other states like New York and Delaware! While our Commonwealth does enjoy reciprocity with a number of jurisdictions, never make the assumption.
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